Branding on the Internet: A Measurable Activity

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In my opinion, there have always been two distinct camps of advertising activities on the Internet. The first is the direct camp, whose main focus is generating quantifiable sales. The second is the corporate image and branding camp, with a primary mission of promoting and developing name recognition and brand appeal.


Today's leading Internet advertising technologies have created an interesting caveat that affects both groups, moving them closer together. In most cases, the camps encapsulate two very distinct groups. Those in the direct camp include direct marketers and catalogers. Typical in the branding camp are the packaged goods companies and their corresponding advertising agencies. Overall, they are two diverse groups with different mindsets and agendas concerning their marketing activities.


The commonality between the two groups is the medium itself, specifically, the Web. This commonality can be realized when you consider the possibilities of measuring the branding effect of a banner. With new developments and technologies in the ad-serving arena occurring on a daily basis, a number of firms have released tools that capture the true return on investment when measuring brand effect on the Internet.


Many industry pundits believe (and the server log files statistically show) that about one to three banner ads out of every 100 are clicked upon. These click-throughs may lead to an immediate sale. The question arises about the other 97 ad views, or impressions, that were purchased by the advertiser. Statistically, most ads are seen and never acted upon in any capacity. But it's now possible to measure which ads were seen, never clicked on, but eventually lead to a sale.


For example, let's say that you visit a site and notice a banner ad for a product that may interest you, but, at that point in time, you don't particularly feel like clicking on it. The next day you are back surfing the Web and you decide that you want to purchase the product that you saw in the banner ad. In response to this, you go directly to the company's site, and make your purchase. While you didn't necessarily generate a click-through from the banner ad on its initial viewing, it did, in fact, help generate the sale.


Today, this branding effect is now measurable. An advertiser can attribute product sales to served banner ads that were never clicked upon. In the not-so-distant past, the conversion rate of sales from click-throughs was the single factor in determining the success of an Internet advertising campaign. Today, a new conversion model is evolving, incorporating the metrics of both sales from click-throughs as well as sales from ad views.


Of course, the analysis of the branding effect needs to be normalized by attributing a finite shelf life to the nonclicked banner. WebConnect deploys a shelf life of two months. In other words, if an ad is viewed and a purchase is not generated within a two-month window, future purchases on that site would not be attributed to branding. A controlled time frame must be decided upon when deploying a brand effect measurement program. Giving undue credit to any ad campaign will only skew the overall ROI analysis.


So, are you in the direct camp or the branding camp? Based on the latest ad-serving technologies, it's a little bit of both. Overall, by measuring the branding effect, marketers are able to further justify the ad dollars being spent online by obtaining a more accurate picture of the campaign's contribution to sales.


Roy Schwedelson is CEO of Worldata Inc. (www.worldata.com), Boca Raton, FL, a list marketing, electronic marketing and database services company. His e-mail address is roy@worldata.com.
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